Clothing Allowances Keep Pace With Price Hikes
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
FORT BELVOIR, Va., Dec. 8, 1999 Military members may have noticed a hike in uniform prices at the beginning of fiscal 2000 in October, but they got an increase in clothing allowances as well.
Susan Fox, a Defense Logistics Agency budget analyst here, said the Oct. 1 increases allow DLA to break even. Service members shouldn’t feel the pinch too much, she said, because clothing allowances are based on actual uniform costs.
She said DLA manages uniform prices through the Defense Working Capital Fund. The agency receives no appropriated funds for this clothing operation and relies on sales revenue to cover expenses such as procuring, storing and distributing items, she said. DLA earns no profit.
Uniform prices went up about 9 percent across the board for fiscal 2000, Fox said, but ironically because prices went down for fiscal 1999.
“Before fiscal 1999, we'd been drawing down inventories and trying to ‘right size’ them,” she said. “We took in money but didn’t need to replenish our inventories as much, so we were left with a lot of cash in our accounts. The secretary of defense instructed us to use $500,000 of it to cover fiscal 1999 costs and give customers a price break.”
As a result, DLA broke even last year, but the party's over. Fox said the new prices reflect undiscounted 1999 levels, plus an adjustment for inflation.
In order to minimize price fluctuations, Fox said, DLA sets prices just once a year on Oct. 1. “They hold for a whole year,” she said. “If there’s a problem, a mistake or the economy goes haywire, we still have to wait for the next year to fix our prices accordingly.”
DoD clothing replacement allowances for each member are set annually based on the prices of uniform items for that year, Fox said. She explained that a team working for the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness determines the allowances based on the expected life span of each required item.
For example, Fox said, a duffel bag costs $18.60 in fiscal 2000 and has an expected life span of 10 years. Therefore, members' clothing allowance over the year will include $1.86 for the bag -- 10 percent of its fiscal 2000 price.
Enlisted members receive either "basic" or "standard" clothing replacement allowances, which differ in amount depending on service branch and gender. Members with less than three years of service receive the basic allowance while those with more than three years' service receive the standard, officials said.